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Old 12-04-2016, 03:38 PM
 
Location: Austin
29,546 posts, read 16,481,629 times
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I'm doing research on a summer Alaska trip but without the cruise (except for day cruises). Has anyone done that and what do you recommend?

We are not interested in fishing, hunting or mountain climbing. We enjoy local food, sightseeing and shopping. Also, day cruises to see the glaciers and float plane rides over the mountains. We rent a car almost everywhere we go. We would probable be there for a 7 - 10 days.

Thoughts?
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Old 12-04-2016, 05:21 PM
 
Location: Out there somewhere...a traveling man.
39,534 posts, read 47,711,196 times
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Seems to me a cruise would be the best for you. You sound like you're doing the tourist bit so a cruise would take you to more places in less time. You could book your sight seeing trips through them or if you want on your own when you get to a port, or even in advance.
Renting a car is fine but a lot of time will be wasted driving.
On a cruise you get the best of everything, touring, entertainment, good food, no hassle packing and unpacking every night. Your time period of 7-10 days would not be enough on your own to see much. Plus you take chances on some heavy rains. Alaska gets over 110 inches each summer season.
That is my opinion, others may differ.
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Old 12-05-2016, 05:41 AM
 
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We did this a few years ago and it was FANTASTIC. To me so much of Alaska is about spending time in nature not just looking at it and you simply wouldn't get the same experience on a cruise. We also got to eat some fantastic food (the baked goods in Alaska are fantastic). It depends on your travel style, but I have a completely different opinion that WitNit, driving around Alaska is where you see so much of the beauty. Cruises don't go to Denali, which is amazing. It's not wasted time to us, but the best way to really see a place. And yes, you can see a heck of a lot in 7 to 10 days.

We had 10 days and flew into Anchorage took Turnagin arm to Seward (we overnighted in Girdwood) then spent 3 days in Seward. Turnagin arm is one of the most scenic drives in America and by being on your own you are free to stop at all the sites you want - mountain goats, whales, etc. In Seward we did a 8 hour glacier trip that was amazing, we saw glaciers calving, puffins, a pod of whales swam along our boat for a few hours. We also hiked to Exit Glacier in Seward where we spent about an hour watching a momma bear and her cubs play in the waterfall up the side of a mountain (we were far away down the mountain) We also spent a ton of time on the waterfront in Seward watching wildlife and eagles. There are eagles galore in Seward. We also did a summer dog sled tour from Seward.

We then drove to Talkeenta where we overnighted. Spent the afternoon skipping rocks on the river and watching Mt. McKinley peak through the clouds. Talkeenta is where you would do a flight seeing trip over Denali. It is where all the climbers leave and return from the mountain. We spent the afternoon talking with a guy heading up for Denali to try to summit and we followed his group via social media and were so happy when they summitted. The next morning we had breakfast at Talkeenta Roadhouse (pastries bigger than your head) with some climbers who had just spent 3 weeks on the mountain and heard stories that were amazing. You wouldn't get that authentic experience from a cruise.

We then spent a few nights outside of Denali and went into the park. So much wildlife and some great hikes. Really interesting part of the country that you really need to see for yourself. One night a moose was swimming in a lake at 1 am, where it was still light outside, right outside the balcony of our inn. It was so pretty.

Some travelers also add Homer, which is supposed to be really nice, but we had an 8 and 9 year old with us, so we stuck to these towns.

There is no wrong way to travel, just what works for you. But we found that driving around Alaska was perfect for us and never once did we wish we had taken a cruise.

Also, check out the Trip Advisor Alaska Forums. They are very helpful there and will help you figure out a plan that works best for you. There are a lot of Alaskans that hang out there as well as frequent travelers to the state. They helped us plan our entire trip and it was so much better because of their input.
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Old 12-05-2016, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Beautiful Pennsylvania / Dull Germany
2,214 posts, read 2,632,057 times
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I didn't do a cruise there, actually there are several other ways to explore the state. I preferred driving to be flexible. We got a car in Anchorage and explored the area, for example Denali, Talkeetna (where some glacier airplane flights are offered) and went all the way to Dawson City, Canada via Chicken,AK.

I liked Talkeetna, they have some good food. Denali is awesome, but weather can be really unstable there. 9 out of 10 days there is fog.

However shopping is not on my list for Alaska, found it rather expensive there, and there were few things (in terms of clothes) that aren't avaliable elsewhere for less. This excludes some local artefacts or specialties.

There are also nice train options for those who do not enjoy driving long distances. https://www.alaskarailroad.com/

Oh and rental cars happens to be extremely expensive there in the high season. We found a friendly local rental company that had cars which already were a couple of years old, but absolutely well maintained and affordable. http://alaskaexpresscarrental.com/ Saved us several hundreds of $$ compared to the big companies.
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:12 AM
 
6,040 posts, read 4,433,841 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenniferg72nc View Post
We did this a few years ago and it was FANTASTIC. To me so much of Alaska is about spending time in nature not just looking at it and you simply wouldn't get the same experience on a cruise. We also got to eat some fantastic food (the baked goods in Alaska are fantastic). It depends on your travel style, but I have a completely different opinion that WitNit, driving around Alaska is where you see so much of the beauty. Cruises don't go to Denali, which is amazing. It's not wasted time to us, but the best way to really see a place. And yes, you can see a heck of a lot in 7 to 10 days.

We had 10 days and flew into Anchorage took Turnagin arm to Seward (we overnighted in Girdwood) then spent 3 days in Seward. Turnagin arm is one of the most scenic drives in America and by being on your own you are free to stop at all the sites you want - mountain goats, whales, etc. In Seward we did a 8 hour glacier trip that was amazing, we saw glaciers calving, puffins, a pod of whales swam along our boat for a few hours. We also hiked to Exit Glacier in Seward where we spent about an hour watching a momma bear and her cubs play in the waterfall up the side of a mountain (we were far away down the mountain) We also spent a ton of time on the waterfront in Seward watching wildlife and eagles. There are eagles galore in Seward. We also did a summer dog sled tour from Seward.

We then drove to Talkeenta where we overnighted. Spent the afternoon skipping rocks on the river and watching Mt. McKinley peak through the clouds. Talkeenta is where you would do a flight seeing trip over Denali. It is where all the climbers leave and return from the mountain. We spent the afternoon talking with a guy heading up for Denali to try to summit and we followed his group via social media and were so happy when they summitted. The next morning we had breakfast at Talkeenta Roadhouse (pastries bigger than your head) with some climbers who had just spent 3 weeks on the mountain and heard stories that were amazing. You wouldn't get that authentic experience from a cruise.

We then spent a few nights outside of Denali and went into the park. So much wildlife and some great hikes. Really interesting part of the country that you really need to see for yourself. One night a moose was swimming in a lake at 1 am, where it was still light outside, right outside the balcony of our inn. It was so pretty.

Some travelers also add Homer, which is supposed to be really nice, but we had an 8 and 9 year old with us, so we stuck to these towns.

There is no wrong way to travel, just what works for you. But we found that driving around Alaska was perfect for us and never once did we wish we had taken a cruise.

Also, check out the Trip Advisor Alaska Forums. They are very helpful there and will help you figure out a plan that works best for you. There are a lot of Alaskans that hang out there as well as frequent travelers to the state. They helped us plan our entire trip and it was so much better because of their input.
We've done almost this exact thing twice, for about 12 days each.

I've also spent a short time (1 week) working up there, driving around quite a bit.

In my experience, driving is far superior to the cruise/daytrip thing if you really want to see Alaska. Yes, it can be somewhat tiring...the state is gargantuan.

I'm wondering a bit about what the OP's expectations are since it seems enjoying the natural splendor of Alaska isn't super high on the list...and that's what Alaska does best IMHO. Yes, the plane ride and day cruises are, IMHO, essential if you're into sightseeing AND you don't want to hike or fish, etc.

We enjoyed the food in Alaska but I would not necessarily put it on a foodie's bucket list. We tried to go fresh/local wherever we went and it worked. If you make it to Homer, and I would, try the Saltry. Very cool place.

Shopping? No.
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:38 AM
 
Location: MMU->ABE->ATL->ASH
9,126 posts, read 17,133,831 times
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Yes... Did it

Flew into ANC had over night and about half the next day in Anchorage, Took a AlaskaAir Tour of Barrow (~24hrs) flew from ANC to Barrow, Did tour of Barrow, next day flew to Fairbanks, Got Rental Car tour Fairbanks area ( Did dog (on wheels) Sled ride, gold panning, Alaska Pipeline,paddle wheeler), then down Parks HiWay to Denali National Park (Took the bus in ?13? miles), Took a SkiPlane from Talkeetna up and landed on Denali,

Continued down parks hi-way to Seward, did Sea-Life center, Did a DayTrip into the Kenai Fjords, then back to ANC, Dropped car, flew to Juneau (with a two stops along the way deliberately picked that flight). Spend day in Juneau, then took a ferry (old "high speed", Not the Alaska Ferry system), to Gustavus. Did Day trip from Glacier Bay NP to whale watch and glacier caving. Flew back to Juneau, had about 20hrs till flight back to ANC, and back to ATL.

Last edited by flyonpa; 12-05-2016 at 09:58 AM..
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Old 12-05-2016, 10:37 AM
 
Location: Austin
29,546 posts, read 16,481,629 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Dakota View Post
However shopping is not on my list for Alaska, found it rather expensive there, and there were few things (in terms of clothes) that aren't avaliable elsewhere for less. This excludes some local artefacts or specialties.
.
When I said shopping I meant for local products and artefacts.
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Old 12-05-2016, 10:44 AM
 
Location: Austin
29,546 posts, read 16,481,629 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elhelmete View Post
We've done almost this exact thing twice, for about 12 days each.

I've also spent a short time (1 week) working up there, driving around quite a bit.

In my experience, driving is far superior to the cruise/daytrip thing if you really want to see Alaska. Yes, it can be somewhat tiring...the state is gargantuan.

I'm wondering a bit about what the OP's expectations are since it seems enjoying the natural splendor of Alaska isn't super high on the list...and that's what Alaska does best IMHO. Yes, the plane ride and day cruises are, IMHO, essential if you're into sightseeing AND you don't want to hike or fish, etc.
Actually, the natural splendor of Alaska is very high on my list. Just not via mountain climbing or fishing trips. That's why I listed flightseeing and boat day trips as possibilities.

Quote:
We enjoyed the food in Alaska but I would not necessarily put it on a foodie's bucket list. We tried to go fresh/local wherever we went and it worked. If you make it to Homer, and I would, try the Saltry. Very cool place.
Let me clarify; we are not looking for fine dining. When we travel, we like to eat with the locals and love finding out of the way casual places including brewpubs. I'm guessing that wild game, salmon and halibut will be plentiful. That's wonderful.

Quote:
Shopping? No.
Clarification; we like to shop for local products and artifacts. For example, we bought some Huckleberry Liqueur near Glacier National Park this year. It was a wonderful find.
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Old 12-05-2016, 10:57 AM
 
6,040 posts, read 4,433,841 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadking2003 View Post
Actually, the natural splendor of Alaska is very high on my list. Just not via mountain climbing or fishing trips. That's why I listed flightseeing and boat day trips as possibilities.



Let me clarify; we are not looking for fine dining. When we travel, we like to eat with the locals and love finding out of the way casual places including brewpubs. I'm guessing that wild game, salmon and halibut will be plentiful. That's wonderful.



Clarification; we like to shop for local products and artifacts. For example, we bought some Huckleberry Liqueur near Glacier National Park this year. It was a wonderful find.
Well OK then. Driving is much better than cruise/bus.

BTW, in the 10 years between trips, the number of breweries literally exploded...great beer up there.

Edited to add: I know you said no/minimal hiking, but I will say that one thing that helped get the kinks out after a long stretch of driving was a mild hike each day. Even a walk. We found the variety of walks/hikes to be endless, some no more difficult than a walk in the neighborhood, and it really helped keep the blood flowing and the lungs pumping in the middle of a long stretch of driving.

We all know about Denali, but Alaska has a ton of smaller state and regional parks that are perfect for the casual walker/hiker...virtually off of every highway you'll be on. Easy access. JMHO.

Last edited by elhelmete; 12-05-2016 at 11:08 AM..
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Old 12-05-2016, 10:58 AM
 
Location: Fredericksburg, Va
5,188 posts, read 13,352,934 times
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I, too, think a "land trip" is the best way to experience a place you want to see. A cruise is great if you don't really care about the destination, and just want some "fun time"....but Alaska deserves more than a "taste"!
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